Giovani Bernard was one of Tampa Bay's few offseason signings this year and put pen to paper roughly a month after free agency began. Despite joining a team that has returned its entire Super Bowl-starting lineup, none of this means Bernard won't take on an impactful role in red and pewter.
Bernard joined the small group of experienced veterans at the Buccaneers' voluntary organized team activities and hit the ground running within the team's offense.
So far, offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich has liked what he's seen, acknowledging that Bernard has had little-to-no issue learning the ins and outs of the Buccaneers' scheme.
"I think the thing that's impressive of him so far in this short period of time, you really only have to tell him something once," Leftwich said about his newest weapon at running back. "You tell him something once, he gets it, he's able to execute it and operate it, which lets you know he's been around a lot of good football."
After eight seasons with the Cincinnati Bengals in which he tallied over 6,500 yards from scrimmage and 33 touchdowns, Bernard knows a thing or two about contributing in all facets of an offense. Not only has Bernard put together impressive rushing campaigns, but has proven himself as a reliable third-down back catching the ball out of the backfield and protecting the quarterback.
His third-down abilities will pave a way for Bernard to take the field. Tampa Bay has a solid staple with running backs Ronald Jones II and Leonard Fournette also on the roster, but both are more suited for early-down action as they aren't as polished in the passing game.
Bernard will have to prove his worth in mandatory and training camp with Rones and Fournette, along with Ke'Shawn Vaughn, C.J. Prosise, and Troy Pope, in order to earn the snaps he's projected to take on. But based on Leftwich's early indications, Bernard should have no problem fitting in and carving out a role.
"He's a really smart football player," said Leftwich. "Let alone his ability, what he can do from an attribute standpoint, his skill set, his ability to think on the run, be able to maneuver and do the things you got to do from that position to make the decisions that you have to make with that position.
"It's been great so far, so he's been doing a hell of a job for us just in the passing game, in the run game, just being a pro, doing the things that we'll need our running backs to do."